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Both advocates and skeptics have processes that RPA alone cannot automate. That’s where humans come in.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the latest in a long history of solutions that increase process efficiency—you may have learned of it through UIPath's recent and much-discussed IPO. What's less broadly known is that is that robotic process automation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, once implemented it saves time, money, and resources. For example, manufacturing alone has saved over 60% in wages by leveraging automation.
On the other hand, as many as 30 to 50 percent of initial RPA projects fail. That is because implementation is often slow, expensive, and its solutions are designed for static processes in a dynamic world. Even Fortune 500 companies bemoan RPA implementation and the RPA consultants populating workflow charts drawn on Microsoft Paint. (That's a true story.)
If you're a modern, nimble team, you need a process efficiency solution that adapts and grows as you do. Invisible's hybrid people-and-tech solution (worksharing) leverages RPA and other tools to offer greater range and lower costs.
Here's what you need to know about RPA and Worksharing:
What are BPO, BPAAS and RPAs?
Before we can dig into RPA, we need to do a quick review of outsourcing. Humanity's first large-scale attempt at process efficiency.
Outsourcing is a product of the Industrial Revolution in 1760. Before this time, craftsmen created their products or carried out their services by themselves. Or, if the business had a big enough audience, they would hire other, full-time workers to assist them.
Once new manufacturing processes took hold, business owners realized they could create the same products at better margins in record time compared to the tediousness of the “by hand” approach. At this point, outsourcing meant wheeling their textiles down to the factory in their city and having their teams use shiny new machinery to scale production.
Skipping forward to the 1970s, workers now had legal rights, personal computers are introduced, and technology used for business was more advanced than ever. And, thanks to aviation (which was now both convenient and affordable for businesses), companies discovered that outsourcing tasks like customer service and payroll were cheaper overseas.
Business Process Outsourcing
Outsourcing is a labor reduction strategy designed to reduce costs and increase output. Its core component is identifying repetitive processes and outsourcing them to other locations where labor is cheaper (but still of high quality). Today, companies can outsource low-skilled business processes to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) vendors. These vendors tap a talented globally distributed workforce.
Yet, BPO is often incompatible with the dynamic processes of knowledge work and modern, nimble teams. The pace at which these teams delegate and iterate processes is too fast for BPOs to adapt to and make a profit. BPOs can best support simple, large-scale industrial processes. The processes can include payroll, accounting, telemarketing, data recording, to name a few. Supplementary, as opposed to core business functions.
Business Processes As A Service
Business Processes As A Service (BPAAS) uses cloud-based tools to deliver business process outsourcing services. This automated operation is designed for multitenancy. Many clients operating in the cloud's shared environment. Since there is no dedicated labor pool per client (see: multitenancy) the pricing models are subscription-based.
Robotic Process Automation
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a specialized form of outsourcing that uses software robots (AKA bots) to complete basic tasks handled by end-users. RPA technology makes it easy to build, deploy, and manage bots to emulate human actions when interacting with digital systems.
These bots do not "think" for themselves in the way that Artificial Intelligence (AI) does. They are "copycats." These bots capture and interpret data between applications to update databases, complete transactional processing, or supplement back-office operations. Automated customer care bots can sort queries and offer initial responses to customers. They can sort queries by department and category to provide quick answers. You've interacted with at least one of these bots this week.
These bots are on the lower end of the price and sophistication spectrum (as compared to AI) and operate well until their conditional programming is challenged. That's when bots "break," which we'll discuss soon.
There are two main types of bots: attended and unattended bots. Unattended bots can automate tasks without human intervention. Updating customer forms or pulling data from a customer invoice. Attended bots improve employees' quality of life by assisting with processes, even though they need human intervention.
As a prospective customer, user, or candidate engages with a team, the attended bot can assist by providing them links or information. RPA software providers such as Oracle and UiPath help Human Resources and Marketing departments by updating candidate and customer data from emails and website application forms. Providers like BluePrism help finance teams extract data from bank statements to reconcile records or draw comparisons.
Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), also referred to as Hyper Automation, orchestrates technology and human labor to do more in less time. It combines standard business process management (BPM) best practices with advanced technology and artificial intelligence to complete organizational tasks better and more efficiently.
What's the difference between RPA and IPA?
IPA leverages simpler ('dumber') RPA bots to assist with tasks, those with structured data inputs such as forms’ custom fields. Meanwhile, IPA takes on unstructured data tasks such as answering open-ended social media conversations with clients.
This solves some problems with traditional RPA, but leaves at least two:
The Solution? Worksharing
At Invisible Technologies, we combine the best of automation (RPA, IPA, and BPAAS) with human outsourcing to reduce workload and costs. We call this process worksharing.
We use RPA on processes or parts of low-skill processes to lower costs for our clients. Then, we complement more complex processes to our elite pool of human “agents” from around the globe. Clients enjoy the full range and efficiency of a human-tech-powered workforce while interacting with a single bot via email. This bot, which feels like a virtual assistant, works on our Digital Assembly Line (DAL). The coolest factory on the web.
On the DAL, we industrialize knowledge work by allowing clients to delegate processes to their bot at which point we build custom processes for humans and technology to solve. Examples of delegations include building lists, data transformation, back-office workflows, or even custom processes.
Invisible's blend of humans and technology gives clients the same (and superior) level of unattended support. On a cost-effective and subscription-based model that scales with them.
Here is why RPA advocates and skeptics will love Invisible: Greater range of work, executed more efficiently
Invisible uses RPA bots in harmony with custom workflow automation tools. Automation of processes based on rules-based tasks. Which safeguards us from bot breaks and allows us to provide efficiencies on more processes.
Why? Because we have humans in the mix to help make decisions when there are exceptions. For example, a bot wouldn't recognize a simple error such as a name's misspelling (Halee instead of Hayley). A human agent can and will step in to correct the error so the bot can continue working.
This is why we can accept and execute a highly customizable and complex range of delegations. Delegations include step-by-step instructions from our Leads (agent's managers), then delegated to agents. Each delegation goes through five critical steps on the DAL:
For example, we have provided data structuring to three global food delivery companies. Over the course of six months, they submit tens of thousands of food menus from thousands of different restaurants (unstructured data) and asked us to clean, enrich, and custom transform the data. For this process, we hired and trained a fleet of agents in weeks to assign a menu complexity rating and then built custom scripts and selection tools to extract data. At which point agents returned to apply simple judgments and QA.
Reduced Implementation Time, Accelerated Impact
When deploying automation software, there is massive preliminary work and training required. For the bots and for the humans involved. First, the processes you want to run are tested and approved by a central planning committee at your company. Once those processes are validated, your team is taught how to use the automation tools with those specific processes. On average this process can take two months to set up.
With Invisible, you can get a new process up and running within a week, as the process of assigning and training staff, as well as building custom tools and making changes falls to us. All managed on the DAL, which clients can view but are not responsible for.
Too, the turn-around time for delegations is a speedy process, varying on completion time depending on the scope of your delegation. Our leads are responsible for keeping a close eye on agent workflows and performance. Keeping agents incentivized to perform fast, quality work. Our Agents come from nearly 20 different countries across all time zones. So work is done around the clock (they're treated and compensated fairly, we promise!). Keeping your processes running like a well-oiled machine.
No Need For Change Management
The robots are coming for our jobs! At least, that has been our looming fear. A technology-driven future where humans are outthought, outpaced, and outworked by robots.
Indeed, there has been a shift toward robotization and automation of low-skilled jobs. Up to 20 million manufacturing jobs around the world are projected to be replaced by robots by 2030. Economists also predict that this shift will create new job opportunities. Robots need training, handling, maintenance, and more.
At Invisible, we imagine a brighter future. One where robots take over daily tedium and give humans back time to focus on impactful, interesting work. We are a tech company dissatisfied with tech (alone). Humans provide vast potential that no form of other automation can.
That is why we do not replace your team, we enable and enhance it. Our clients decide where they need more efficiency. We partner with them to identify the RPA, BPO, IPA, and human work opportunities. We then work with your team to build custom processes that suit your needs, and evolve and scale when you do. This can range from simple to complex. The key takeaway is that our processes are not limited to any one format, structure, or sample because we customize for each client. While customizing, we discover new processes which automation potential and provide solutions.
This is how we help your team reduce the tedium and get back to productive tasks that maximize returns.
Some of the larger projects Invisible has run for clients have needed a sophisticated blend of people and technology. Let's take into inventory management. We reconciled 90,000 inventory items across a client's Inventory Management System and digital storefront.
A process that typically costs roughly 40% less than what it would cost to run in house. That’s because of how we set up a dynamic team of humans to start on this project and, after three months, 90 percent of the work was automated using RPA. The human workforce helped us keep costs affordable at the onset and until automation could step in.
Having humans involved, versus technology alone, also allowed for a quick turnaround on simple judgment: reducing the friction and pain of starting with RPA and obviating the need for expensive IPA tools.
No Technical Debt
If you don't have to buy a bot, you won't gain technical debt. Invisible offers an in-house ('invisible') suite of ready-made processes, standard RPA/BPO tools and software, and will also build custom tools for you. Along with providing agents of all backgrounds, judicious leads delegating to them, and a range of experts to fill in any knowledge or skills gaps.
RPA implementation on your own would involve several crucial steps. Identifying process opportunities, benchmarking vendors, selecting a vendor, negotiating price and contracts, and then implementing bot use. And in the end, over 63 percent of organizations say their RPA's expected implementation timelines were not met. Over 37 percent of organizations said their cost expectations were not met.
No Annual Contracts
Many automation software vendors need you to sign quarterly or annual contracts. Nimble teams might prefer more flexible options. Invisible also offers contract options for clients who want to save costs in the long term. But they are optional.
Your team can subscribe to Invisible's service on a month-to-month basis. During your subscription, you can explore our offerings and avoid unnecessary commitment risks. Our costs are transparent. You will know our costs per task before they we delegate them and keep financial decision-making. You also won't pay for any sub-par work on your delegations.
The Future Belongs to Humans and Technology
While BPO, BPAAs, RPA, and IPA can relieve your teams from static work, we live in a world full of dynamic, complex problems. Automation and outsourcing of knowledge work will need a more collaborative, human-centered approach.
When leaders center their workforce strategies on technology alone, they are subject to its limitations. And they ostracize the very humans needed to break those limits. Besides lowering costs and saving resources, leaders should try to free human genius from rote work and tap their limitless potential.
Where RPA alone would automate one process, Invisible’s human agents can go a step further. By identifying new opportunities for delegation and automation, and offering creative, scalable solutions. More time for your team to focus on the things that matter. Like pitching to qualified investors, hiring technical talent, and creating visionary campaigns. No breaking bots. No consultants. No added costs.
In an era of increased automation, outsourcing, and technological breakthrough, leaders have a remarkable opportunity to reshape work. To make technology work for humans.